Marquette Township ordinance prohibits pot sales

MARQUETTE — Commercial marijuana establishments have been banned in Marquette Township, at least for now.

The Marquette Township Board voted unanimously to approve the second reading and adoption of an ordinance prohibiting marijuana establishments during a meeting on March 5.

The ordinance language was drafted pursuant to the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act passed by popular vote on Nov. 6, which establishes a regulatory system for the issuance of licenses to grow, process, test, transport and sell marijuana for use by people 21 and older.

The local ordinance characterizes a violation as a municipal civil infraction with fines not less than $100 and not more than $500, with each day the violation continues considered a separate offense.

The act gives the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs until December, a year after the law initially went into effect, to begin accepting applications for state-issued licenses, Marquette Township Attorney Roger Zappa said.

“Everyone is checking on progress on that, and there is really no public pronouncement on that as far as I can tell at this point,” he said. “It’s likely that it is going to be a fairly comprehensive set of regulations and it is going to require a fair amount of analysis once they do come out. Timing is anyone’s guess.”

Zappa also reminded the board that whether municipalities opt in and allow marijuana establishments, or opt out and prohibit any commercial activity related to recreational marijuana, the action can be subject to a referendum if a petition in the jurisdiction can gather signatures equal to 5 percent of the number of voters who cast a ballot in the last gubernatorial election.

“At this point it would be very premature for either side to start gathering signatures because no licenses can be issued until the state issues the regulations or some other unforeseen event,” Zappa said.

He said if the township board decides to allow the establishments in the future, answers to basic questions would still need to be determined.

“Well, if the township is considering down the road on limiting, on having one or two of each category permitted within the jurisdiction perhaps,” Zappa said. “But the township would still have to develop some sort of a process for sorting through who, where, when, what … those types of questions. How many feet from a school, how many feet from other types of establishments, those types of things are all valid for regulation.”

The ordinance is expected to go into effect before the end of March.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.